Costa Brava beach days – Sant Marti d’Empuries

Strung out by bountiful beach coves and gently sweeping sandy beaches that stretch out to the horizon, there’s little to not like about Sant Marti, located a short distance from its neighbour L’Escala. 

If you’re already in L’Escala, take the Cami de ronda de l’Escala (Passeig Dr. Pi i Llussa), a coastal footpath and walk here at your leisure. Even here you can stop, just turn off to the right, via one of many access paths (unmade, often uneven) to discover uncrowded sandy coves.

We often make our way directly to a beach area, a 20 minute walk past the village, which welcomes dog owners. It is also a popular spot for kite surfers, windsurfers and the occasional naturist. The beach is sufficiently large enough enabling you to spread out, avoiding any eye contact with bare flesh.

For directions, we make our way from Girona using the AP7 toll free parts. If you weren’t aware, you can travel north or south for free, using a limited number of exits. We join the motorway at St Gregori, going north and get off at the Vilademuls exit. You still get issued a ticket at the tolls but there’s no payment. 

Continue along the N-II road through Oriolls and turn off at the GI- 623   signposted Escala. Go all the way eastwards to Escala itself if that’s your final destination, or take the St Marti turn off. As you come off the roundabout here go past the village. There’s a horse riding place on the left and shortly after look out for a sign ‘RioMar Hotel’, just before a bend in the road. Turn right here and continue down this dusty track. You’ll start to see parked cars on one side, the further you can get down here and find a parking spot the nearer to the beach you’ll be.

If not then continue to the end where you’ll see the beach and follow the track to the right, and take the first right, where there are more places to park. The beach area in front of the 1-star hotel RioMar is popular with windsurfers and there’s a beach bar here (Ukelele) too, but only during the summer season. Look to your left and you’ll notice a small river and a long wide expanse of sand with dunes at the back. You can see right across the bay of Roses and the resort of Roses in the distance.

Cross over the arching iron bridge and choose your spot. At the height of summer there are lots of dog owners here and hundreds of kite surfers which use a nearby camping site as their base. This area has no beach facilities like showers or lifeguards, except for a portaloo (summer only). Do wear sandals or some sort of foot protection as the sand is blisteringly hot. Entering the sea at this point the water’s quite shallow for a fair way out.

Of course you don’t have to venture out as far as here, you can enjoy super beaches located just a stone’s throw from the village itself. The only downside is finding free parking, or use the paid option. For example, just behind the church, walk down below to one that has a beach bar (chiringuito Olivia) which I’ve been well informed serves good food. That said, Sant Marti is well served by a handful of eateries in the Placa Petita, a cute triangular shaped area that gets super busy in the evenings and more so at weekends.


Costa Brava beach days-Calella de Palafrugell

Lucky Girona residents have the best of both worlds it seems-easy access to scenic mountain landscapes, and a short drive to a dizzying array of fine beaches, bays and coves that even Robinson Crusoe wouldn’t say no to.

When you heap praise on Catalan friends, regaling them on their wondrous naturally sculpted heritage, they often simply shrug their shoulders. A complacent, satisfying but proud acceptance is how I see it. Many have their own favourite sandy escape, closely guarded secrets with names I’ve never heard of. Tiny, charming and hard to access coves that prompt ‘wow I never knew about this place’.

As an outsider there’s the thrill of visiting and experiencing individual beach locations. Holidays are fine for that and the Costa Brava has prospered enormously. 

We first encountered Calella de Palafrugell when we toured Catalonia while on our holidays, way back in 2001. These days we’re avid fans of its annual music festival (July/August) at Cap Roig, an old botanical garden. Facing the sea, the grounds are transformed into an outdoor auditorium, and many famous faces have appeared here, including Tom Jones, Sting and Elton John. Not to be outdone, there are also plenty of Catalan and Spanish artists featured.

One way you can enter is via nearby Palafrugell, a modestly sized ordinary looking working town, handy for stopping for supermarket supplies, and possibly resupplying your drinks cabinet. It has a huge warehouse sized shed, Vins i Licors Grau selling wines across all price ranges, by the bottle or by the case. We were also here once to see its spring festival full of colourful carnival floats, music and costumes.

Further northwards the coastline gets craggier, more impressive and more expensive. Resorts like Begur link to ever smaller, exclusive postage stamp places like Sa Riera, Aiguablava and Tamariu. Mention to friends that you have a place in any of them and don’t be surprised by raised eyebrows.

The last time we came to Calella was to discover one of its scenic coastal paths. We started with good intentions, but it wasn’t long before an attractive beachside restaurant loomed ahead. The lunch light bulb came on, and we didn’t need too much encouragement to stop. After all, when the sun shines, thoughts turn to more culinary matters. We’ll do that walk next time.

There are plenty of holiday apartment blocks and houses set back from the beach and spreading up into the hilly areas above. Thankfully there’s little in the way of high rises or interfering commercialism. Also absent (as far as I can tell) are any obvious signs of tackiness and ‘cheap and nasty’ parts to avoid. Of course, there are hotels and camping areas but younger party goers looking for any nightlife will be disappointed.

If you work your way down to the seafront and along the beach you’ll see a number of small coves that are a great part of its appeal, all close to each other. Platja del Canadell is a popular spot. Others further along include Platja de Malaspina, Platja de les Barques and Platja d’En Calau all next to each other. Thankfully, they’re all close to shops, cafes and bars in town.

The next one along is Platja Port Pelegri (below) which has steps down to the sand, and a restaurant (Fiego) a stone’s throw from the water.

The swanky beachfront in Calella is largely traffic free and full of shops and eateries, attracting evening diners and strollers taking the evening air-well worth staying for some late entertainment. Summertime evenings this stretch also has a smattering of stalls selling local crafts and jewellery.

For a small, picturesque, charming and popular Catalan resort it offers plenty of handy beach-hopping options to fill your day, if that’s your thing. 

Out of season Calella is deathly quiet with few people and empty streets, the only plus being plentiful parking. Some of the beachfront cafes open only on weekends, making a winter visit worthwhile, especially when it’s sunny.


Costa Brava hotels- S’agaro

Only a 25 minute drive from the city of Girona, we were looking for a peaceful and restful weekend break in the middle of a cold February. This hotel and its facilities proved to be the perfect solution. Looking for spa hotels in Girona & Barcelona, we did our research on prices, facilities and availability. Some hotels do not open until March, some seem to just pay ‘lip service’ to Spa – it may run to a jacuzzi and a small room for body treatments but nothing else. Some were already booked up and some were just extortionately expensive.

S’Agaro Hotel Spa & Wellness looks lovely from the outside, with a pretty facade, balconies, gardens, the pool area and terraces (not in use in the winter). It all looks inviting for the summer and just moments from the beach you can hear the sound of the sea (which the rooms at the front have great vistas). 

The furniture is comfortable and inviting with marble floors, lots of light with large windows. The hotel has obviously been refurbished and everything is tastefully decorated, cleanly painted with tasteful pieces, artifacts, ornaments and pictures here and there. This was the case not only in the reception area but the bar, restaurant, corridors etc. Staff efficient, polite and helpful. As it was February, it was very quiet. Online booking offers extra choices to enhance your stay.

As we were more interested in trying out the spa facilities than a luxurious room, we got a good deal on a special offer. Apparently, you can check the website but better to call them as depending on how busy they are, there are special offers every week. 

The staff obviously speak English. The good value deal meant a room (with a small balcony, tired looking table & chairs). Overlooking the back car park but with views of the urbanisation of S’Agaro (which is all low rise attractive properties – so not an eyesore). The room was small, basic and clean but with lovely furniture and a minibar, although two single beds pushed together even though we had asked for a double.

This happens a lot in hotels anyway. If I had a gripe it would be that the room felt cold no matter how much we turned up the heating and didn’t seem to be working sometimes. However, this is a summer resort hotel and there was provision for A/C. Also, I just wanted to catch the news in English but not one channel offered English (although French & German as well as Catalan and Spanish). It was a shame also, that there was not a fire burning in the fireplace in the bar. The large space was very comfortable & inviting but so cold, it was empty. 

There is room service but breakfast (included in our deal) was very good in the dining room, and catered for every taste (even bacon & eggs!). Reasonably, (time wise) this was served until 11am so you don’t have to get up too early. Dinner was delicious also and the set menu offered an excellent choice for a good price, although extras such as drinks, coffees etc. are expensive.

The spa which has been open for about a year at the time of this report was really superb. Beautifully designed in the space available. You can see this if you go directly to the hotel website and view the YouTube video (click on the Spa bit). What you see is what you get. We were shown around, given slippers and dressing gowns to use (all clean and wrapped in plastic bags) and left alone by the discreet & non-interfering staff to enjoy the experience. 

There is a very small gym, steam room (they call a hamman) a sauna, two pools (one extra warm with some very gorgeous water features to enjoy). Special shower cubicles with lots of interesting water therapeutic experiences, separate treatment rooms, private changing rooms with showers for washing. There were lots of interesting buttons to press and it was a case of ‘try it & see’ which brought some fun surprises! 

There were also lots of comfortable seats, loungers with cushions for those that just wanted to chill, including a room with two marble beds that were heated and a changing light colour ceiling. If I had anything to complain about it would be that towels were in short supply, so we ended up bringing our room ones to the spa. 

This may seem churlish but it didn’t have that fresh, relaxing ‘spa’ smell you would expect which could have been easily provided (such as sprayed natural scents, perfume plug-in ‘thingys’, josh-sticks, scented flowers perhaps ? – understand candles would not be safe). Also it would have been lovely to hear a quiet backdrop of ‘chill’ music that would generally suit everybody without being obtrusive such as easy jazz, tranquil sounds or whatever especially in the relaxed areas. 

You could hear the sounds of the noisy water machines kicking off, the ‘whoops’ and exclamations of surprise bathers having cold water poured over them. Children are allowed with adults and it’s the perfect place just to relax with your partner. Such sheer, indulgent luxury at comparatively very reasonable prices for what’s on offer. Especially in the mid/high season when you can use the pool outside, hop & skip over to the beach and enjoy drinking & dining on the terraces. 

I’ll be keeping this in mind when I go back with our kids and hope to plan a ‘girly weekend’ that I know everyone would enjoy. However, it’s also a great winter escape. I shouldn’t share this but I know that there is no point in keeping secrets if not enough clients use the hotel and its facilities.

 Although the hotel told us they were busier than last year, we generally enjoyed the spa facilities relatively alone and all to ourselves. This was an extra 60€ each for the weekend and included a full body massage for an hour (normal charge 50€). Our room was 155€ for two nights including a massive breakfast (although this was an immediate pay on-line booking & no cancellation return). Total cost came to 270€ for the two of us (not each) including the spa, relax vouchers inc. massage. We did pay for a meal in the restaurant and drinks from the bar on top. 

Room tip: Front rooms for front line sea view & pool view. Cheaper rooms over back car parking would still be quiet as they also face a park and distant urban houses. They don’t seem to get sunlight so would be cool also, but guess the front areas are more sunny but noisy in the summer. Also above reception, pool, terrace & restaurant areas. More luxurious rooms available than we stayed in.

(This review was written several years ago)


Costa Brava beach days-S’Agaro

I’ve mentioned previously that being in Girona you have easy and relatively quick access to the coast. You could even catch a bus there from Girona’s main bus station. The beach at S’Agaro is hard to beat, it’s one of our top favourite destinations-even out of season. Not for sun-bathing mind you, but for a bracing walk along the Cami de Ronda, a coastal path full of wind-bent pines. 

It certainly has the feel of a holiday home place with a couple of hotels and nothing really high-rise. Weekends sees posh cars jostling for a prime parking spot. Whenever the sun shines day visitors flock here to dine and people watch. No better way to spend a lazy Sunday.

This small town nestles next to the much larger St Feliu de Guixols, whose beach is nice too. However, S’Agaro steals the show in the chic stakes, smaller in size with a peach of a beach. If you blindfolded someone and asked where they thought they were, you’d be unsurprised if they said somewhere in dreamy California.

That American link does have a ring of truth, because of the 5 star Hotel La Gavina, with its prime location overlooking the bay. An old S’Agaro chestnut, its guest list includes former Hollywood A-listers Frank Sinatra and Ava Gardner. She starred in Pandora and the Flying Dutchman, filmed in the 50’s in nearby Tossa de Mar. She felt at home in Spain, and came back to stay for longer periods.

Next to and behind this hotel is a gated community of large 1930’s built, detached houses that was designed by Rafael Maso. He’s known for his modernist style house designs, of which there are several in Girona. It’s fine to walk through here enroute to La Conca, another small beach worth a visit. Or get there via the Cami de Ronda path which is a more rewarding walk. 

Fine sea views and when the sea is rough the crashing waves add drama. Rocky outcrops jutting out, pines struggling to grow straight, and that turquoise sea. Feeling carried away, once you reach La Conca there’s the reassuring sight of a chiringuito (beach bar-summer only). There’s a way of getting here via a different road as it has a car park (and public toilet).

Failing that, just stay on S’Agaro’s beach, St Pol. It’s never too hard to find a paid parking spot (free off-season) close to the beach. Time limits apply, which I hate as you’ve got to go back to feed the meter if you plan to stay a while. 

A warped boardwalk slithers along the seafront and there are plenty of potential sandy spots to pitch your beach umbrella. Watch the boats and yachts bobbing about or take a dip in the clear water. It’s fairly shallow so you can wade out a fair way. There’s a sailing club here too, if you fancy a go at windsurfing or paddle surf.

A road running parallel to the beach is well served with cafes and restaurants, many with the requisite outdoor seating. Thoughtfully you only have to cross the road to dine alfresco with a sea-view. Lunchtimes are busy here, book on weekends. Try decent seafood in La Palmera, or tapas in Las Dunas. Wintertime many only have a lunch service, closing about 5pm.

You’d need to take a 5 minute hike away from the beachfront for more food choices. On Avinguda de Platja d’Aro there’s a good pizza takeaway Cibu that has outdoor tables. 

Or, find a beach bar, sit yourself down and watch the sunset.

Beaches Girona

How to get from Girona to the coast

This is more of a guide for those independent visitors and tourists to Girona who arrive at its airport and have to find their way to other places like Barcelona or coastal resorts without the benefit of a car.

You can of course choose a taxi, convenient and quicker but that can get pricey. There’s always a long line of taxis waiting outside the arrivals hall and there’s usually information visible that shows the cost to popular destinations. Forget about getting an Uber or similar, none of these rideshare companies operate here.

For Barcelona bound people who want to take a coach you need to take a right turn as you exit arrivals. Walk a short distance down to a large parking area where you’ll see parked coaches with Barcelona Bus or Sagales, and a small stand-alone ticket office. 

For anyone wanting to get to the many Costa Brava resorts and towns by bus you’d need to get to Girona’s bus station first. Most of the major towns are reachable e.g. L’Escala, Estartit, Playa d’Aro, St Feliu de Guixols, Blanes and Lloret de Mar (bus No.660).

LIke above, turn right out of airport arrivals, walk down about 50 metres to the bus waiting area. There’s a small ticket office where you can buy a single ticket 2.75€ for the airport bus, from bay 1, that will take you straight to Girona’s bus & train station. It’s underground so when you step off, walk towards the main waiting area at the far end,where you’ll see various ticket booths and the large departure information board. You’ll see the available destinations and departure times.

Try to plan ahead as bus timetables vary according to the season and are less frequent at weekends. Be mindful that the station does close at night. If you need to exit the bus station for any reason, follow the exit signs (sortida/salida) using the lift, stairs or escalator. Most signs are in fact shown in 3 languages, Catalan, Spanish and English. On reaching ground level and outside the building you’ll see the train station just across from you. The platforms are raised above street level, and the ticket office and ticket machines are inside.

Girona train station has the following amenities: toilets, atm, tobacconists (tabac), cafeteria, general store with drinks, snacks etc, left luggage, lottery sales, gift store (ale hop) and car rental offices. Whichever side you exit there are always taxis here. One side has free short-term parking, or longer term paid parking which can be found on the other side (of the above photo, facing C/Barcelona).

As far as trains from Girona to the Costa Brava coast the destinations are very limited. That’s a shame as there used to be a narrow gauge track that ran all the way down to St Feliu de Guixols, that was ripped up in the 1970’s. It’s now a popular cycle route with an occasional reference to its former usage.

Going in a northerly direction towards the French border there’s really only two coastal destinations, Llanca and Colera. Heading south the main line is inland and only touches the coast when it reaches Barcelona.

For the resort of Blanes you’d need to change at Macanet-Massanes and take the R1 service towards L’Hospitalet De Llobregat.

Llanca is 62km by car from Girona, travel time about 50 min. or one hour by train. It’s a fair size town with the usual tourist amenities and an important fishing port.

Colera on the other hand is far smaller with a darker, hard sand beach, holiday apartments, tiny marina and not a lot more. On my one and only visit, we took the slow train from Girona and for some reason had to change at Figueres. Arriving in Colera the miserable excuse for a station was reminiscent of a Spaghetti Western movie set. What must have been the station at one time was now a boarded up graffiti strewn building. 

The bare bones platforms on either side of the tracks were equally uninspiring and had seen better days. The walk to the resort is short and I have to admit there are better looking Costa Brava resorts. On our way back to the Girona bound platform we observed groups of teenagers gleefully jumping into the pools of unoccupied properties.

One last thing to add is that if you’re travelling with a dog then train travel is fine (costs may apply), but banned on bus travel. Bus timetables  Spain’s rail operator

Beaches Girona

Girona, Barcelona and the Costa Brava-19 questions people ask

I get asked so many different types of questions about the Costa Brava, Barcelona and Girona. I thought I might lump a random lot of them into this one post. A lot of this information can also be found across the pages of my site. If you’re wondering why it’s 19, I simply prefer odd numbers!

How far is the Costa Brava from Barcelona? 

About 70 km north of the city.

Is the Costa Brava a good holiday destination?

Absolutely, the number of good beaches will leave you spoilt for choice. Sun, sand and sea-an unbeatable combination. Other Spanish Costas are just as popular but don’t always have the same cache.

Is Barcelona on the Costa Brava? 

Not really, it’s commonly accepted that it extends from Blanes in the south, all the way up to the French border.

How many days do I need in Girona? 

For a small city you could easily get a real feel for the place in one day. Walk around the old town, nip into one of the museums and enjoy an evening meal. If you have more time then taking a more leisurely stay allows time for additional pleasures. For example, Girona’s week long St Narcis festival in late October or the 9-day long flower festival (Temps de Flors) in May.

What’s the best airport to fly into for the Costa Brava? 

That’ll be Girona-Costa Brava Airport-the official name. Used by many low-cost and budget airlines like Ryanair and Jet2.

How do I get from Barcelona to Girona? 

Apart from a 90 minute drive, the best and quickest way is by taking the TGV/AVE fast train, just 40 min. Non stop. Catch it from Barcelona’s Sant station.

Is Girona a safe city? 

While I personally haven’t encountered any problems, I have heard of a few instances of low-level street crimes. For example, look after your belongings at the main train/bus station. Never leave any bags hanging off the backs of chairs-just common sense stuff. Girona’s old town maze of alleyways is a very lonely place in the early hours. One friend who lives there was walking home very late and got asked by a passer-by for the time. As he pulled out his phone to check, the guy ripped the phone out of his hand and legged it. Feeling slightly inebriated he felt helpless-result, one lost phone!

Is the Costa Brava hot in May? 

The average is about 20°C at the beginning of the month, going up to 24°C by the end. Daytime averages are about 18°C,  but night time drops to about 10°C, so a light jacket or layers would be a good idea.

What are some good day trips from Barcelona? 

You can catch a fast train to Girona for its medieval charm, or Figueres which has the famous Dali Museum. There’s Montserrat if you’re into monasteries, or lively Sitges with nice beaches, just a 30 minutes train ride away.

Is Girona expensive to live in? 

There are sites and various metrics experts used to determine these costs, but I consider it’s not a cheap place to live. As someone who rents, being the main expense, I think they’re still high, but maybe slightly less than Barcelona for comparison sake when we talk about identical flat sizes.

Where should I live in the Costa Brava? 

Depends on what you’re looking for and how deep your pockets are. Plenty of pretty coastal locations like Cadaques, Calella de Palafrugell and S’Agaró, but many are very quiet off-season. Bigger working towns have a bit more activity and not so desolate, like Palamos, St Feliu de Guixols and Blanes, 

What’s the best month to visit Barcelona? 

Good all year round in my opinion, but as far as the climate goes then May to June could be ideal as it’s around the mid 70’s.

What are some good day trips from Girona? 

We’re assuming you have a car, but local buses go to these following towns too. Banyoles for its superb lake-a 2 hour walk all the way round.Further out, Besalu has an impressive stone bridge and medieval centre. Figueres (by train also) has the popular Dali Museum (booking advised). Nearest beach is St Feliu de Guixols, go on a Sunday to catch its weekly market.

Does Girona have a beach? 

No, but it’s only about 30 km to the coast.

How far is Girona from Barcelona? 

Not as near as some think, about 90 km north. That equates to about 90 minutes by car or just 38 minutes by fast train.

How hot is the Costa Brava in October? 

Mostly mild, with the average daily minimum at 13°C, maximum at 21°C  it’s wise to bring a light jacket or jumper, especially at night.

How different is Catalan from Spanish? 

Let’s clear up one thing- Catalan is not a dialect of Spanish, it’s a separate language. In truth, the Catalan grammar, pronunciation and vocabulary has more in common with French.

Where should I live in Girona?

Lots of decent residential areas, hard to list all of the ones I consider worthwhile. For anyone interested I’ve already written a seperate blog post about my own opinions.

What language do they speak in Girona?

Put simply, Catalan. It’s very strong here and I try to use it for day to day stuff, but there’s no problem if I have to resort to Spanish. If you’re here for some time it’d be worth picking up some basics, it’ll always go down well with the locals.


Costa Brava beach days-Platja d’Aro

Platja d’Aro ticks a lot of boxes. This large long established resort town remains a popular destination for many different kinds of visitors. True the handsome beachfront (platja Gran) is its prime attraction, long, wide, and sandy. High-rise apartment blocks dominate the skyline a bit too much, a victim of rampant earlier development.

Droves of second-home owners migrate here to wait out the summer. It also attracts hordes of young night-clubbers from afar, being the only real nightspot destination of choice for many locals and tourists. Clubs like Michigan, Papillon, Zsa Zsa and Blow crank out cocktails and music till 6am. 

Drive down its main street at 7am and it’s surprisingly busy, as hungover youths stumble into cars. Their poor parents begrudgingly scooping them up-I’ve done the same!

Just a few blocks from the sea Avinguda de S’Agaro is its lengthy commercial hub which comes alive at weekends and most evenings. Crowds of people jostle for pavement space, window shopping or looking for sustenance. Platja d’Aro has a good amount and a mix of shops. Even out of season Sunday shopping is alive and well here, while Girona’s shops stay ghostly closed.

As a day visitor the chances of parking close to the beach are slim, within its maze of one way streets. One tip is to avoid taking the first Platja d’Aro exit, continue to the next one signposted ‘north’ and enter the town from here. If you find a paid bay you’ll end up having to pop back to feed the meter. We usually end up finding a free space further out and face a short walk in.

Not entirely starved of culture it has a few notable events throughout the year. February is Carnaval time and this place has one of the best I’ve seen. During July and August, every Friday from 11pm it has free jazz music, (Noches de Jazz) at one end of the beach.


Costa Brava beach days-St Feliu de Guixols

Escaping to the beach from Girona is easy by car. Once you’re out of the city and on the C-65 / C-31 road it’s only about 33 km to St Feliu de Guixols. Upon entering the town’s outskirts you can catch a  glimpse of the sea, way down below. 

Just follow the beach (platjas) signs which lead you onto a long straight road that runs parallel to the beach. There’s paid parking here, to your left and right in the blue bays, hard to find though at the peak of summer.

There’s a perceptible feeling of a working town cum one-third resort. Much a place for locals as for tourist visitors. Even off-season and wintertime it still retains a modicum of vibrancy. It has a bustling weekly general market every Sunday worth perusing. All over by mid-afternoon, ready for that perennial problem of where to go for lunch.

The long broad seafront esplanade smacks of a bygone era or former glory. The Casino La Constancia building along here (Rambla del Portalet) stands as a curious testament to the towns’ colourful past. The ‘stuck in the 50’s’ internal decor, it’s still utilised as a social / community centre. Worth taking a peek inside or stopping for a coffee.

Choose a suitable beach plot along the gently curving, well-groomed beach. Glance to your right to an elevated cornucopia of holiday apartment buildings, perched along its pine-strewn promontory. Crank your neck leftwards and the beach ends with the town’s port / marina area. 

If you decide to venture over there it has a worthy seafood restaurant, Sa Marinada. A further 15 minute curving uphill stroll will take you to S’Agaro, a much smaller upmarket chic resort.

If you’re staying in St Feliu for a bite to eat in the evening, stroll through its central areas starting at the Rambla, a short hop away from the beachfront. El Dorado is one favourite we keep returning to, but less so these days, as prices have risen beyond the ‘let’s eat out and not worry about the price’.

Friends who live nearby inform me that the pizzeria la Locanda Di Nonna Flo is also good.

Behind the seaside facade the interior town areas verge on the largely unremarkable scale as a 6. That’s not uncommon and rarely the real reason for a visit. St Feliu fulfills its duty and works perfectly fine as a beach-day-treat antidote to city living.


Costa Brava beach days- St Antoni de Calonge

Part of the appeal of living in Girona is that we’re not too far away from the Costa Brava beaches. So many fine destinations that we’re spoilt for choice-a nice problem to have. 

That said we tend to stick to those beaches due east, from say, St Feliu de Guixols and up north to St Marti d’Empuries. Within this stretch there’s plenty to choose from, and no real reason why we don’t get to the more northerly places like Roses or Cadaques.

A trip to the beach for us is not just restricted to the summer, we go at all times of the year, understandably less often out of season. It’s a great tonic, beaches during the winter are deserted, often windswept and if we’re lucky enough, find a restaurant for lunch or a snack.

The resort of St Antoni de Calonge is about 40 min. drive from Girona, off the coastal C-31 road. It’s very much a seasonal town, full of second-home owners during the summer months and earthly quiet if you visit in winter. Mainly apartment blocks and thankfully not too high rise and some beachfront hotels.

I like the coarse, light yellow, grainy sand here and even in high season there’s room to move. It definitely exudes a ‘this is for us locals’ mood and you’d be hard pressed to hear any other voices except Catalan or Spanish.

It’s popular with Gironians as every time we visit we’re sure to bump into someone we know from Girona. The long seafront is the real attraction, split into three smaller bays by man-made rocky promontories. There’s a wide footpath that runs along the whole stretch and beyond, which will take you to the much larger next door resort of Palamos.

This path is popular with dog walkers, cyclists, joggers, skateboarders and busy with promenaders on a summer’s evening. The place is well served with seafront cafes and restaurants, Refugi de Pescadors (the fishermen’s refuge) and Restaurant Simon are the two most notable for their seafood. Nearby Palamos is an important fishing port with a daily fish market, so you’re bound to get a decent dish. 

When in season, Palamos prawns (Gambas de Palamos) are coveted and expensive. They have a reddish body, firm texture and more akin to a king prawn in size.

The sandy beach areas have lifeguards and roughly centrally located there’s a first aid station and toilet. Out of season the toilet is removed as I noticed when I visited one November. Where do you go if you’re caught short and no cafes are open? I think the local council needs to rethink this one.

We tend to park at the southern end of town as it’s a stone’s throw from the beach with more spaces. Parking within the blue bays is paid, the only annoying thing is that you get a maximum of 2 hours, so if you’re here for several hours it means popping back to keep feeding the meter.

If you fancy a pleasant long stroll then starting here you can keep on the same flat, asphalt, coastal path I mentioned above for the next 2 kms reaching Palamos eventually. It too has beach areas and a ghastly high-rise apartment block, which dominates and blights the beachfront view-in my opinion anyway.

Don’t expect much in the way of nightlife here, you’d have to head off into nearby Playa d’Aro for that. Driving out of here for 4km you might also want to check out the inland medieval hill village of Calonge.


3 Costa Brava beaches that allow dogs

So you find yourself living here with dogs or visiting and wondering if there are any dog friendly beaches along the Costa Brava, within close proximity to Girona.

Ordinarly dogs aren’t allowed onto the majority of beaches out here. This rule is year round as the no dogs signs are still displayed even out of season. However this is Spain and rules here are looked upon more as a guide. 

We’ve been on many beaches off-season and during winter and a lot of times there’s hardly anyone around, let alone to reprimand you. Plus, if other dog owners are there too that kind of means it’s okay unofficially. That said I can’t always guarantee that a passing policia local person might decide to say something.

The first place I was told about by a dog owning neighbour was Platja de la Gola del Ter, loosely translated as the mouth of the river Ter, which is one of four rivers that runs through Girona.

Driving there is the only option in this case. On the road from Torroella de Montgri to Pals, there’s a small Gola de Ter sign indicating where you turn off. Stay on this country road for several kilometres, through apple orchards and flat rice fields. Signs of civilization eventually start to appear in the shape of the Hotel Picasso, which also serves up a decent set lunch menu. 

Keep going along this so-called road which quickly turns into a bumpy, dusty dirt road reminiscent of an African safari route. The track narrows and it’s time to keep an eye out for a parking space. We try to go as close as we can to the beach. Walk the short distance to the beach across a bumpy boardwalk between dunes to a sandy, narrow stretch full of patches of driftwood. Left and right the beach extends out as far as the eye can see.

On our last visit people had begun constructing small rickety looking shelters using the plentiful driftwood. Sandy beaches stretch out in both directions. Walk off to your left for 10 mins and you’ll reach the river mouth. The steeply curving, deep sanded banks appear to shift their shape from year to year, and the water is knee deep if you want to walk across.

Dogs are free to wander and you really need to be self sufficient as there are no services anywhere. If you fancy a dip the water here becomes quite deep as soon as you enter the sea. Early evening sees the arrival of beach fishermen. 

Platja de les Dunes, St. Marti d’Empuries

Head for L’Escala and take the road signposted St Marti. Go pass the village of St Marti, and take a right when you see a sign for Hotel Riomar. Going down this dusty side road you’ll see parked cars, during summer it can be hard to spot a free space. As you reach the bottom you’ll see the wide expanse of sand, with the Riomar hotel (which also allows dogs) on the right. Parking is a bit tight here so turn right and continue, as the road bends to the right there’s more space along here.

With the hotel behind you, the area where dogs are allowed is across the small iron bridge that straddles a gentle stream.

With dunes at the back this super wide beach runs all the way up to St Pere Pescador. During summer you have to share it with hundreds of kite surfers and it’s also popular with nudists too. But the beach is plenty big if you can’t bear the sight of bare buttocks or the odd birthday suit. Make sure you wear flip-flops or sandals summertime as the sand is unbearably hot.

No lifeguard here but luckily there’s a portaloo, a cool beach bar (summer only) with decent food and a good sundowner spot. If you fancy more eating choices, a gentle 15 minute walk will take you to the quaint small St. Marti, where we often end up for a late supper in its Placa Petita.

Playa L’ Estartit-Playa canina

Just before you reach Estartit, turn right towards the sea and follow this road ‘Caminassa’. It ends right by the beach and surrounded with holiday apartments so parking is easy enough. Walk onto the beach and you should see the space to the right.

During the summer there’s a dedicated roped-off beach area for dog owners which is large enough. Within eyesight you’ll see a beach bar but there’s no toilets or lifeguard here. Off season it becomes one big open beach again (image below). The seaside resort of L’Estartit is off in the distance to your left. We’ve done the long walk into town from here and it’ll take about 25 minutes. Wintertime can seem a bit desolate, often very windy and unremarkable, as so many bars and restaurants are shut. But it’s not as bad as other locations along the Costa Brava.

Let me just finish by mentioning the strangest thing I’ve seen on a beach. Well, that was a 3ft long pet lizard sitting on its owner’s towel on La Fosca beach, near Palamos.